Here are some key facts:
Pregnancy happens when sperm reaches an egg and fertilises it. The POP pill works in two ways to interrupt this process:
If taken correctly, the POP pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year.
The POP pill is available free of charge from a range or services including contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest one using our find a service tool.
When you go to get the POP pill, an appointment will typically include:
You will not be required to have an internal or breast examination for the POP pill.
When you first start the POP pill you will usually be given a three month supply. Follow up appointments and reviews are then usually every 6-12 months providing there are no issues. You can return to the clinic at any time if you are worried about anything.
Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you're at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.
You take one pill every day from your pack. Depending on the type of pill you are taking this will need to be within either three or 12 hours of the same time each day. With the POP pill you don’t have a break between packs (as with some types of the combined pill), and when you have finished the pack, you start taking the next pack the next day.
There are two different types of progestogen-only pill:
The three-hour POP pill containing the progestogen hormone levonorgestrel or norethisterone. These must be taken within three hours of the same time each day. It is this type that is referred to as the ‘mini pill’. Examples are Femulen, Micronor, Norgeston and Noriday.
The 12-hour POP pill which contains desogestrel (such as Cerazette). This must be taken within 12 hours of the same time each day.
Please note, the pills prescribed by your doctor or nurse may vary. Whatever type of pill you are taking, follow the instructions that come with the packet, paying careful attention to which medicines and antibiotics might affect it.
Any medication can have some side-effects or disadvantages but for most women the benefits will outweigh the possible risks. Things to watch out for include:
You take one pill every single day with no break. When you first take the pill, choose the time of day that suits you best. Then take it at the same time every day until you finish the packet. You then start the next packet straight away.
If you start taking the POP between day one and day five (inclusive) of your period, you will be protected against pregnancy straight away.
If you have a short menstrual cycle, where your period normally comes every 23 days or less, starting the POP pill on the fifth day of your period may mean you are not immediately protected (because you might ovulate early in your menstrual cycle).
If you think this might be the case, speak with a doctor or nurse about whether you need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for the first two days.
If you start taking the pill at any other time in your menstrual cycle, it will take two days before it starts to work. So you'll need to use condoms for the first two days.
If you are more than three or 12 hours late if you are taking POPs containing the hormone desogestrel:
If you are less than three or 12 hours late if you are taking POPs containing the hormone desogestrel:
If you are given medication by a doctor or a nurse always say that you are taking the POP. Sometimes different medication can interact.
Your periods may become irregular - they may happen more often, less often, be lighter or stop altogether.
You may also get spotting in between periods. This isn’t harmful and may settle down. If you have concerns speak to a doctor or nurse.
The POP pill can also help with painful periods and premenstrual symptoms.
There’s lots of reasons why you might want to stop taking the contraceptive pill. Whatever the reason, here's what happens when you stop taking the pill.
How quickly it leaves your system: the hormones from the pill will usually leave your body within a couple of days - no matter how long you have been taking the pill for.
How quickly you can get pregnant: this will vary, and will depend on when ovulation (releasing an egg) starts up again. For some people, it may be a matter of days or weeks, for others it may take up to three months. But generally speaking, fertility levels should return quite rapidly, so use condoms or another method if you don’t want to get pregnant.
What happens to your periods: if you find you have irregular periods after stopping taking the pill and are worried, or if it's taking a long time for your periods to start again, you can ask your doctor or nurse for advice.
What physical changes there might be: everyone reacts slightly differently to coming off the pill. For example, some people are prescribed the pill in order to control acne, so stopping taking the pill may cause skin problems to become more severe, although as your hormone levels self-regulate over the course of a few weeks or months, symptoms may subside once again. If symptoms persist or worsen please see a doctor or nurse for help and advice.
You can start taking the POP pill any time after the birth. If you start after day 21 you will need to use condoms for two days. The POP pill does not affect the way your breastmilk is produced and you can breastfeed whilst taking the POP pill. A very small amount of hormone enters your breast milk, but research has shown this will not harm your baby.
You can start taking the POP immediately after a miscarriage or abortion and you will be protected from pregnancy immediately. If you start the pill more than five days after the miscarriage or abortion, you'll need to use a barrier method of contraception, such as condoms until you have taken the POP pill for two days.
Last review: August 2017
Next review: August 2019